Muslims in South Western part of Nigeria under the auspices of Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), on Sunday sent a strong warning to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo; former Military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, General T.Y. Danjuma, religious leaders and other elder statesmen to watch their actions and statements which are capable of “setting the country on fire.”
MUSWEN in a press statement signed by its Executive Secretary and CEO, Professor Dawud O. S. Noibi; President-General, League of Imams & Alfas, South West, Edo & Delta States, Shaykh Jamiu Kewulere Bello; Chairman, Board of Trustees, Prince Judge Abdul Jabbaar Bola Ajibola, (SAN) and President, MUSWEN & Deputy President-General (South), (NSCIA) Alhaji (Dr) Sakariyau O. Babalola (OON), a copy which was sent to DAILY POST, said it was “worried by the undue politicisation of many issues by certain religious, ethnic and political leaders.”
The group while appealing to the trio of Obasanjo, Babangida, Danjuma and others to thread with caution, warned them “not to throw the country into further confusion.”
MUSWEN said, “Against the background of recent political developments, we use this opportunity to call on past political leaders especially Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Theophilus Danjuma to thread with caution as elder statesmen and not throw the nation into further confusion.”
The group while declaring that it was disturbed that Boko Haram group has continued to hold Leah Sharibu hostage for refusing to convert to Islam, remarked that, “We want to reiterate the fact that Islam forbids forceful conversion of non-Muslims to Islam and enjoins respect for People of the Book – Jews and Christians. Indeed, Allah explicitly directs Muslims to provide refuge to even idol-worshippers who seek shelter in our abodes and grant them protection to safety! As Allah says: “If anyone among the pagans asks you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are a people who know not.” Qur’an 9:6”.
MUSWEN, however, said it was surprised that some christian leaders and elders have allegedly politicised the matter.The group said, “Against this background, we condemn the action of some Christian leaders and elders who have politicised this sad development which has nothing to do with Islam. We declare for the umpteenth time that the Boko Haram group does not represent Islam and the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria.
“We, therefore, call on members of the Boko Haram group to release the girl forthwith without any further delay. It is unimaginable how far the group could go in its acts of mindless disservice to Islam and Muslims. Islam stands for humanity, not against it.”
MUSWEN while calling on Nigerians to bear in mind the need for them to continue to live together in peace and harmony, however warned politicians that “Contest for political positions should not be a do-or-die affair. It should rather be a contest of ideas about building a better future for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“Our politicians must conduct themselves in a decent manner and not turn Nigeria into a battle zone. They must remember that only Allah can grant power and authority to whoever He wills. As such, we call on all politicians and the electorate to eschew violence in whatever form. The nation can only make progress in an atmosphere of peace.”
The Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), as part of our civic and social responsibility, continues to monitor issues of national and regional importance, especially as they affect the Muslim Ummah. In the past, we intervened on a number of issues that we considered fundamental to the continued peaceful existence of our nation and our region.
Since the beginning of the year, several issues have dominated public discourse across the nation. While we appreciate the quality of some of the debates, we are worried by the undue politicisation of many of these issues by certain (especially Christian) religious, ethnic and political leaders. It is for this reason that the Central Working Committee (CWC) – the executive arm of MUSWEN – considers it appropriate to hold this press conference and thereby project our position on the issues to the public.
Forthcoming Elections: As we are all aware, the 2019 general elections will hold in less than a year from now. However, preceding these national elections are the gubernatorial elections which hold in Ekiti and Osun States in July and September respectively.
Against this background, MUSWEN wishes to use this medium to call on all Nigerians, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to bear in mind the need for us to continue to live together in peace and harmony. Contest for political positions should not be a do-or-die affair. It should rather be a contest of ideas about building a better future for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Our politicians must conduct themselves in a decent manner and not turn Nigeria into a battle zone. They must remember that only Allah can grant power and authority to whoever He wills. As such, we call on all politicians and the electorate to eschew violence in whatever form. The nation can only make progress in an atmosphere of peace.
What’s more, MUSWEN enjoins all Muslims of voting age to get duly registered and actively participate in all the stages of the election process as part of their civic responsibility. We all have genuine stake in the future of Nigeria. In doing this, they must avoid all actions that may run contrary to the law.
Against the background of recent political developments, we use this opportunity to call on past political leaders especially Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Theophilus Danjuma to thread with caution as elder statesmen and not throw the nation into further confusion.
Release of Dapchi Schoolgirls: On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the nation woke up to the cheering news of the release of most of the Dapchi schoolgirls that were abducted by members of the Boko Haram group on February 19, 2018. We thank Allah for His Divine intervention. We also appreciate the efforts of President Buhari-led Federal Government as well as the support and prayers of well-meaning Nigerians in ensuring the safe return of the girls. We pray for the repose of the souls of the five girls who lost their lives during the abduction saga.
We are, however, disturbed by the report that the Boko Haram group continues to hold hostage the only non-Muslim girl among the abductees, Leah Sharibu, who is said to refuse to convert to Islam. We want to reiterate the fact that Islam forbids forceful conversion of non-Muslims to Islam and enjoins respect for People of the Book – Jews and Christians. Indeed, Allah explicitly directs Muslims to provide refuge to even idol-worshippers who seek shelter in our abodes and grant them protection to safety! As Allah says: “If anyone among the pagans asks you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are a people who know not.” Qur’an 9:6
Against this background, we condemn the action of some Christian leaders and elders who have politicised this sad development which has nothing to do with Islam. We declare for the umpteenth time that the Boko Haram group does not represent Islam and the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria.
We, therefore, call on members of the Boko Haram group to release the girl forthwith without any further delay. It is unimaginable how far the group could go in its acts of mindless disservice to Islam and Muslims. Islam stands for humanity, not against it!
In the same vein, we appeal to the Federal Government to do all it can to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls who have remained in captivity almost four years after their abduction by the Boko Haram group in April 2014.
Hijab Controversy and Justice for Firdausa Amasa: On Wednesday, 13th December, 2017, a Muslim female University of Ilorin law graduate, Miss Firdausa Al-Jannah Amasa, was denied her call to bar by the Body of Benchers owing to her refusal to remove her hijab at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, the venue of the call to bar ceremony.
Many informed members of the public agreed with Miss Firdausa and considered the action of the officials of the Body of Benchers a violation of her right to freedom of religion which is protected by Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
It later came to the fore that a number of other Muslim ladies were made to pass through some humiliating moments in the attempt by some officials of the Law School to force them to remove their hijab. One of such victims, Miss Aisha Zubair, was forced to remove her hijab after she had been called to bar a day earlier on Tuesday, 12th December, 2017. A Law School lecturer who had ordered her to remove the hijab rubbed the hijab on the floor and kicked it around.
Not a few Nigerians considered the above action of the said official of the ‘temple of justice’ unjust, provocative, reprehensible, obnoxious, inhuman, unacceptable and condemnable. Against this background, it was a relief when the House of Representatives, acting on a petition by Hon Damburan Abubakar Nuhu from Kano State, mandated its Committees on Justice and Judiciary to look into the issue.
We are, however, disappointed that the public hearings which the Joint Committee had planned to hold in February and March this year were aborted owing to the attempt by some Christian lawyers to scuttle the cause of justice for Miss Firdausa Amasa as they succeeded a court order which restrained the House from carrying out the public hearing.
We, therefore, call on the House of Representatives to do all it can to ensure that it exercises its constitutional powers as guaranteed by the principle of separation of powers by conducting the public hearing. We also reiterate our call on the Body of Benchers to reverse the suspension of Firdausa’s call to bar and do the needful by calling her to bar forthwith with effect from the date on which she ought to have been called to bar.
General Danjuma’s Call for Self Defence and National Christian Elders Forum’s Drum of War! It will be recalled that in July 2017, MUSWEN addressed the media in Abeokuta, Ogun State on the need to refute the needless allegation of Islamisation levelled against Muslims by the National Christian Elders Forum. It was agreed by consensus that the allegation was not only false but also amounted to lack of respect for our country’s religious plurality and a threat to peaceful co-existence. Sadly, it seems that nothing has changed with regard to the poisonous narrative that NCEF puts to the public space since last year.
We have watched with disbelief how General Theophilus Danjuma and the National Christian Elders Forum have continued to propagate fear mongering as the basis of their contributions to national discourse in recent times. Our understanding is that wisdom and self-restraint come with age. On the contrary, it is not difficult for any discerning mind to see that the Forum is simply looking for ways to set the country on fire. God forbid! As Yoruba say, agba kii se langba langba (an elder does not behave wildly). We are deeply worried that some elders are pursuing a destructive agenda.
While we are deeply concerned by the continued clashes between herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country, we are, however, equally concerned by the ethnic and religious bigotry that has attended this sad development. Rather than see the crisis which has claimed many lives as a national emergency, some opinion leaders have, in an inexplicable manner, feasted on the chance that this affords them to spew in the public space their deep-seated primordial sentiments.
Most worrisome is the ‘call to arms’ declaration by General Theophilus Danjuma when, at the Convocation ceremony of Taraba State University on Saturday 24th March, 2018, he called on Nigerians to defend themselves against what he regarded as the complicity of security forces and the so-called Islamist terrorists in the country.
The retired General has been widely quoted to have said inter alia:
“The armed forces are not neutral… They collude with the armed bandits to kill people, kill Nigerians… If you wait for the armed force to stop the killing, you all die one-by-one… The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State and other parts of Nigeria. Otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play. I urge all of you to be at alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state,”
As an elder statesman and a former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, we consider it a gross disservice for such a personality who made his name as a respected army officer to openly discredit the Nigerian military – an institution which must operate as a symbol of our unity and strength as a nation – and accuse it of working in collusion with criminal elements!
We were shocked that the National Christian Elders Forum led by Chief Solomon Asemota, SAN openly endorsed General Danjuma’s call through its press statement issued on 31st March, 2018. The body in its statement said it “salute the courageous and timely intervention of Gen. T. Y. Danjuma”. The Christian elders went further to state gleefully that “(T)he public statement is finally putting a seal on the long known conspiracy between the Islamists in the current Federal Administration and Islamist insurgents in the country.”
Without a doubt, this is not the first time NCEF would accuse the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Government of harbouring those it labelled “Islamists”. We demand that NCEF stops its game of insinuation and name such elements. Besides, in a twist of reality, everybody knows how much influential many Christians, some of whom are ordained Pastors, are in President Buhari’s government. Yet, Muslim leaders never resort to name-calling and blackmail.
It is significant that the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who is a well-known Christian leader, on several occasions, acknowledged the fact that President Buhari is fairer to the Christians. NCEF in its demonstration of support for General Danjuma called on Nigerians to “make adequate arrangements to defend themselves since it is clear the security services have become tools of Islamists in the promotion of Sharia Ideology over and above Democracy”. (Emphasis ours). NCEF will do itself and the nation a lot of good if it comes out openly and defines what it meant by “adequate arrangements to defend themselves”.
In a dangerous twist of historical facts, NCEF declared: “With the overthrow of General Gowon in 1975, the Islamists launched stealth Jihad in Nigeria and the nation is witnessing the combination of stealth and violent Jihad geared to transform Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate.” On this, NCEF would have a lot of questions to answer as General Danjuma, a celebrated member of NCEF, was himself a major actor in both the events that led to the emergence and removal of General Gowon.
While playing the ethnicity card, “The NCEF has stated repeatedly that it is not possible for three ethnic nationalities (Fulani, Hausa and Kanuri) to imagine that they could impose their religion, culture and political leadership on the remaining 386 ethnic nationalities in the same country.”
This, among other things, points to the undeniable fact that NCEF is simply looking for a way to set the nation on fire! May God stop them! We find it difficult to imagine that in today’s Nigeria the 3 ethnic groups disparaged by NCEF would be monolithic without a ting of diversity! It is difficult to imagine that the 3 ethnic groups are only composed of Muslims! This is against the reality. It is a well-known fact that there exist many prominent Christians among the 3 ethnic groups that NCEF detests.
However, most important to us is the fact that Islam abhors ethnicism and all forms of narrow tendencies. As stated in our press release last year, we once again recall the warning of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “He is not one of us who calls to tribalism; he is not one of us who fights in the cause of tribalism; he is not one of us who dies in the cause of tribalism; leave it, it is rotten” (Abu Dawud; al-Bukhari & Muslim).
It is disheartening that on the few occasions that the National Christian Elders Forum has commented on national issues since its establishment, their thoughts are usually not focused on healing, reconciliation, integration, unity and peace. Their press statements have always been full of bile, name-calling, blackmail and threat. We, therefore, wonder if these elders truly represent the mainstream Christendom in Nigeria. We are worried!
We wish to counsel members of NCEF to take a lesson from from Allah:
“When there comes to them some matter touching (public) security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it.”
We wonder when elders across religious, ethnic and political divides would learn to reach out to stakeholders across the table with a view to finding solutions to our common challenges, especially sensitive issues that need to be handled with great caution and wisdom.It is inconceivable that the members of NCEF would have no access to the President and other key political leaders to convey their grievances, if any. It is also inconceivable that NCEF members know no Muslim elders they can reach out to so that together, we can find lasting solutions to our common challenges.
We are, however, relieved by the matured way the Arewa Pastors Non-Denominational Initiative for Peace in Nigeria is responding to the challenges. In an unusually courageous move, the group led by Bishop John Abu Richard reached out in solidarity to President Muhammadu Buhari a few days ago. We are shocked by the revelation made by the group of how many otherwise men of God use the Church to preach hate and violence. We, therefore, regard the body and similar groups that stand for peace as our partners for the unity, peace and progress of the nation.
We call on Nigerian youths to be wary of the ‘words of some elders’. Whenever elders choose to talk about war, the youths should ask them about their plan for peace. They should ask them about their plan for a better future for all.
MUSWEN shall continue to stand for justice, unity, peace and progress in Nigeria. May Allah guide our leaders and elders right. May He bless Nigeria.
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